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Effect of Climate Change and Preparedness for It is a Reality for Coconut Farmers

("The Cocommunity" - Monthly APCC Newsletter
Volume 44, Series No. 12, 1 December 2014)

Last November many families of coconut farmers in the Typhoon Hayan affected areas of the Philippines remembered the tragic disaster that struck a year ago causing the loss of lives, homes, farms and livelihoods for the thousands. Over 30 million coconut trees were destroyed leaving communities and the coconut sector reeling with a distraught economy for affected farmers and nearly 25% of Philippines production of coconuts causing proportionate decline in exports of related by-products of importance to the nation’s economy and the coconut sector. As the people began to reconstruct their lives the government of the Republic of Philippines through the Philippine Coconut Authority began assistance through strategic projects with development partners that included external donors such as the World Bank, European Union, United Nations Development Program, International Labour Organisation and many others.

The Philippine experience has proven that coconut farmers world over are most vulnerable to climate change effects. It was noted with interest a statement made during the stakeholders forum at the last National Coconut Week in Manila that the coconut farmer was still the poorest amongst the various categories of farmers. This scenario would be similar in the Asian and Pacific Region.Rising sea levels and string winds including cyclones seriously affect coconut farmers in the Pacific with loss of crop and hardship during lengthy recovery periods. Each year heavy rains cause massive flooding in India that badly affected farms and lives of farmers as experienced recently this year.

It is encouraging to read of the efforts in many nations that are committed to strategic actions towards preparedness for climate change effect and the mitigation of the effects. It will be largely dependent on the willingness and the initiative of coconut farmers to adopt good agriculture practices and development strategies to make this important change thus enabling the objectives achievable.

For many coconut farmers it would be the choice of various forest species including bamboos as the expected second line of defence after mangroves or a suitably recommended barrier trees whether on the foreshore or with areas further inland. In some countries the ‘ridge to reef’ strategy is deployed to ensure the appropriate wind breakers are planted. Famers’ food crops are placed in the middle to minimise the effect of strong winds on the food gardens. The inter-planting of economic forest species with coconuts are practiced in some places and the various species of fruit and nut trees in the farming systems also contribute in the efforts of preparedness for the climate change effects.

The efforts of the Coconut Research Institute in Sri Lanka in providing training from 2015 would assist on the subject of climate change preparedness and related coconut-based farming systems. The training would provide good agriculture and management practices needed to successfully establish farms that are prepared to withstand or minimise the negative effects of climate change. It is important to link the preparedness for climate change with poverty reduction and food security efforts for coconut farmers.

The APCC Secretariat takes this opportunity to wish a very Merry Christmas to all our stakeholders and friends of the Coconut and that the New Year would bring many happy returns. We pray for the communities recovering from the effects of the Typhoon Hayan in the Philippines and others in similar situation elsewhere for peace and contentment during this Festive Season. May God bless you all.

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